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Collection 721 Papers of Fred and Clara Elliot

Identifier: CN 721

Scope and Contents

Correspondence and clippings received or created by the Elliots, who were parents of the missionary Jim Elliot. Most of the collection consists of letters from Jim Elliot to his parents and/or other members of his family, although there are also numerous letters from his parents to him and letters from other correspondents, such as Elisabeth Elliot (Jim’s wife), Ed and Marilou McCully, Marj Saint, and Barbara Youderian. The letters describe contemporaneously Jim Elliot’s student years at Wheaton College, preparation for missionary service, courtship and marriage to Elisabeth, work as a Plymouth Brethren missionary in Ecuador, leading up to the death of himself and four other missionaries as they attempted to reach the Waorani Indians, called by their enemies the Auca. Throughout all the correspondence a major theme is Elliot’s description of his devotional and theological thoughts and his spiritual development. There are also many observations on Christian culture in the United States and Ecuador, the realities of missionary life, and the Quechua and Waorani people.


  • 1945-1958


Conditions Governing Access

The entire collection has been digitized, and researchers should use the digital copies rather than the original materials.

Biographical Information

Full name: Clara: Clara Elizabeth (Luginbuhl) Elliot

Fred: Robert Fred Elliot

Birth: Clara: May 11, 1895 in Klickitat, Washington, USA

Fred: March 24, 1887 in Morris, Ontario, Canada

Death: Clara: February 26,1981 in Portland, Oregon, USA

Fred: September 3, 1970 in Portland, Oregon, USA


Parents: Clara: Emil and Emma (Maurer) Luginbuhl

Fred: John and Margaret Elliot

Siblings: Clara: Jim

Fred: William, Earle

Marital Status Married in 1918

Children: Robert, Herbert, Philip James, Jane (Elliot) Hawthorne

Conversion: Fred: At the age of 13


1915-1918 - Clara: Pacific Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon; graduated with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree


Clara: Fifty year practice as a chiropractor

Fred: As a teenager, traveled with preacher H. A. Ironside on his western tours; Plymouth Brethren evangelist and Bible teacher; one of the founders and a leading member of the Grace and Truth Gospel Hall (founded 1920) in Portland, Oregon.


1 Box (DC)

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Materials

The collection contents are arranged on the folder level in alphabetical order by folder title. The folder titles were assigned by the archivist, but the arrangement basically follows the order in which the materials were received. Most of the letters are handwritten, some are typed with additional handwritten notes.

The documents in this collection were almost all either received or written by Fred and Clara Elliot. The letters in this collection that they had sent to their son were probably sent back to them after Jim’s death by Elisabeth. The exceptions are two letters to Jane and Gerald Hawthorne in folder 1-1 and, possibly, the newspaper clippings in folder 1-26. After Fred and Clara’s deaths, the letters in this collection were given to Jane Hawthorne, their daughter and Jim’s sister. The items in folder 1-1 and possibly the items in folder 1-26 were added to the accumulation of documents at that time. The vast majority of the letters and the two postcards, more than seventy-five percent, were written by Jim Elliot or jointly by Jim and Elisabeth Elliot to his parents and/or other family members. There are also two dozen letters in folders 1-3 and 1-6 from his father or mother to him, one letter from Elisabeth to Clara before her and Jim’s marriage (folder 1-4) and five letters to her Howard family and to the Elliot family in folder 1-5 from Elisabeth (always called Betty by family and friends) in the weeks after Jim’s death. As for the rest of the correspondence, there is a letter from Jim to supporters back in Portland, Oregon (folder 1-16) and letters from fellow missionaries and friends of Jim to his parents, dating both before and after his death on January 8, 1956. These include letters from Bill and Irene Cathers (1-2), Ed and Marilou McCully (1-18), Marj Saint (1-20), Barbara Youderian (1-23), Wilfred and Gwen Tidmarsh (1-21), Katherine Howard, Elisabeth’s mother (1-19) and Dorothy Galinda (nee Jones) (1-17). Folder 1-19 also has a letter that Elisabeth’s spiritual mentor, Katherine Morgan, written to Elisabeth’s parents and which Katherine Howard copied to the Elliots. Two letters were sent to Jane Hawthorne (Jim’s sister) and her husband Gerald after Jim’s death, one from her Uncle Earle and Aunt Eileen, then in Scotland, and the other from her brother Robert. The same folder has a letter to Clara Elliot from Jim and Elisabeth’s missionary friend Maria Short (folder 1-1). There are also a few form letters from Wheaton College to Jim’s parents from his college days, announcing academic honors her had one. These letters are signed by college president V. Raymond Edman and acting president Roger Voskuyl (folder 1-22). Folder 1-25 contains one of the honor certificates he earned.

Finally, beside the certificate mentioned above, there are two folders that do not hold correspondence. Folder 1-24 contains a typed two page list of brief excerpts made by person unknown from Jim’s journals, covering 1955 through 1955. Folder 1-26 contains newspaper clippings from Chicago and Wheaton papers and the Sunday School Times about the death of the five missionaries in January 1956 and from the Wheaton newspaper about the baptism of the Waorani woman Dayuma in Wheaton in April 1958.

There are dozens of post-it notes attached to letters from Jim Elliot to his parents’ and family (and two of his parents’ letters to him, 10/14/48 in folder 1-3 and 10/5/48 in folder 1-6). Since the letters were all written in 1956 or earlier and post-it notes were first marketed in 1980, these were attached later. Apparently they were put on when Mrs. Hawthorne loaned the letter to someone (now unknown) who was writing or speaking about Jim Elliot. The notes appear to refer to topics in the letters rather than being commentaries on them. In some cases, the attached post-it notes are blank. It also appears that some of the notes refer to quotes or statements used by Elisabeth Elliot in her biography of her husband, The Shadow of the Almighty, published in 1958. (see, for example, 1/19/1947 in folder 1-8) The post-it notes for the letters from Ecuador are mostly a different color and possibly in a different hand than the ones for Jim’s college years. Some of the letters have red linings on the side or under passages (see for example 3/31/1946 in folder 1-7) and a few others have handwritten notes that do not seem to be by Jim Elliot. When the letters were scanned, pages that had post-it notes attached were scanned both with the note attached and without, because the note usually covered up some part of the text. The archivist occasionally put a date on a letter that did not have in. These notes by the archivist are all in pencil and in brackets, such as “[12/11/1945].”

As mentioned above, most of the letters are by Jim Elliot and usually to his parents. Often the letters also contains messages for his brother and sisters and other family members. After he became a missionary, his letters were probably intended to be shared with members of his church at home who were supporting him, because occasionally he noted in a letter that the contents were to be kept private (see for example May 15, 1952 in folder 1-12).

Jim Elliot usually signed his letters “Jim,” sometimes “Jimmy” or “Jaime,” at least once each “Felipe” and “Jimbo.” The salutations showed his deep attachment to his family. They included, besides “Mom” and “Dad” and the names of family members, “Beloved”, “Folks”, “Greetings Dear Family”, “Beloved Family”, “Dearest Family”, and “Dear Home Folks.” He was a very consistent correspondent. While in college he wrote to his parents on average once a week, after college on average once every two weeks. The letters therefore are a very rich record of both his external activities and his inner spiritual life during his last decade. Throughout the letter are his interpretations of passages from the Bible, almost always with a direct practical application to living the Christian life, as well of evaluations of his own shortcomings and area for spiritual growth and advice to his brothers and sister. He also was a keen observer of the behavior of Christian and of his missionary colleagues, as was Elisabeth.

Many of his early Wheaton College letters (folders 1-7 through 1-10) have the address 645 Duane, which is the house of Earle and Eileen Elliot, his aunt and uncle, who lived in Glen Ellyn (the suburb directly east of Wheaton) and who Jim stayed with during his early time in Wheaton. His life at college is extensively documented, right down to his confession to using the paper cutter in the office of the College yearbook (Tower) to trim his toenails (May 17, 1948, folder 1-9) More seriously, he describes his classes, especially Greek, his involvement with the Foreign Mission Fellowship (such as his 1948 tour through the Midwest with an FMF gospel team described in letters dated July 11, July 28, 1948, August2 , August 11 in folder 1-9), his participation in campus life, particularly the wrestling team, his reading (such as C. S. Lewis in a November 21, 1946 letter in folder 1-8, Amy Carmichael in letters dated December 18, 1948, January 7, 1949 and February 26, 1949 in folder 1-10). He often refers to his roommate Dave Howard and it is in a letter about spending his Christmas vacation with the Howard Family in New Jersey that he apparently first mentions Elisabeth Howard, Betty, his future wife (December21, 1947, folder 1-9). He gave his family a more detailed description of his attraction to her and an evaluation of her in a letter dated September 26, 1948 in folder 1-10 (see also his letter of October 5, 1951 in folder 1-11). From that point on Betty frequently mentioned in his letters. He soon came to believe she was the only woman for him, but he struggled for years with whether the Lord was calling him to marry her. The other side of this difficult courtship is reflected in Elisabeth’s letters for the same period in Collection 278. The letters in folders 1-7 through 1-11 also reflect Elliot’s strong calling to Christian service, particularly as a missionary. He attended the first Intervarsity Student Missionary Conferences in 1946 (described in his January 5, 1947 letter in folder 1-8) and 1948 (described in his December 12, 1948 letter in folder 1-10) and prayed about what his calling should be.

After graduation in 1949, Elliot returned to Portland and so there is little correspondence. At the start of 1950, he, for a change, wrote from Portland to his father who was on an evangelistic mission to Montana about local events in the family and church. In the summer he traveled by way of Glen Ellyn to Norman, Oklahoma to take a course with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) to prepare him for translating the Bible as a missionary. Several letters I folder 1-11 describe his time at SIL (the first letter, dated June 12, 1950) includes a map of the campus at the University of Oklahoma.) The letter dated July 25, 1950 describes his strong pull toward Ecuador.

Folders 1-12 through 1-15 describe his years in Ecuador. Among the events described are: his voyage down to Ecuador with Peter Fleming, their orientation in Quito, beginning of their work among the Quichua people at the Shandia mission station, Elisabeth Howard’s arrival in Ecuador and her beginning of a translation work among the Colorado Indians; the July 1953 flood that destroyed the station at Shandia in July 1953 (letters dated June 9 and July 6, 1953 in folder 1-13), the marriage of Elisabeth and Jim in October 1953 (see letters dated October 3 and October 28, 1953 in folder 1-13); their move to the mission station at Puyupungu in October, the invitation to Fred and Clara to visit Ecuador (see letter dated October 3, 1953 in folder 1-13), Fred arrival described in a letter dated May 2nd, 1954 and his departure in October 1954 (both in folder 1-14), the return of the Elliots to Shandia in June 1954 when Fred arrived to help Jim construct their home and other building projects, the nurture of the Quechua community of believer and the development of schools and Bible conferences (see for example the letter dated April 15, 1954 in folder 1-14), the birth of daughter Valerie in February 1955 (see letters dated January10 and March 25, 1955 in folder 1-15) , first sightings and contacts with the Waorani in the latter part of 1955 (see letters dated October 23 and December 22 in folder 1-15) There is little in the letters about the plans of Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, Roger Youderian, and Nate Saint to contact the Waorani in person(the so-called Operation Auca), probably because they were keeping it secret from their mission agencies and Rachel Saint. Jim Elliot’s last letter to his family, dated December 12th and which would be received in Portland after the planned contact had been made, describes the plan in some detail. Elisabeth gave some details the details in a January 2, 1956 letter in folder 1-5, written before Jim’s death.

A little less than a third of the letters in folders 1-13 to 1-5 covering the years 1953-1955 in Ecuador are by Elisabeth in part or in whole. She, like Jim, reports on family details likely to be of interest such as Valerie’s development and on the activities of other missionaries, including Wycliffe Bible Translators and Mission Aviation Fellowship workers. She also talks about her own actives, including medical work. She for example her description of an obstetrics emergency she handled in a letter dated October 28, 1955 in folder 1-15. Folder 1-5 contains letters she wrote for the Elliots and Howards immediately after Jim’s death, describing the situation in Shandia and her own faith, sorrow and struggles. Katherine Howard, Elisabeth’s mother, also wrote condolence letters to the Elliots, contained in folder 1-19. That folder also contains a condolence letter written to the Howard by Katherine Morgan, whom Elisabeth called her spiritual mother, which Katherine Howard passed on to the Elliots.

Some of Jim and Elisabeth’s missionary colleagues wrote to Fred and Clara before Jim’s death, because of their friendship with the Elliot family (such as Ed and Marilou McCully in folder 1-18 and Dorothy de Galinda in folder 1-17) or inform them about the missionary situation in Ecuador, particularly the conflict between Roman Catholics and Protestants (such as Wilfred and Gwen Tidmarsh’s letter in folder 1-23) Folders 1-17 and 1-18 also contain letters from Dorothy and Marilou after the death of the five men, offering condolences and talking about the situation in Ecuador. Folder 1-2 contains letters from Bill and Irene Cathers. These letters describe their preparation to return to Ecuador after Jim’s death and their work there as Plymouth Brethren missionaries. Similar letters written for consolation and friendship to Fred and Clara are in folders 1-20 and 1-23 from Marj Saint and Barbara Youderian.

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were given to the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives by Jane Elliot Hawthorne in April 2021.

Accession: 21-10

April 30, 2021

Bob Shuster

E. Banas

B. Hicklin-Campbell

Select List of Individuals Mentioned in the Correspondence

● Bill Cathers: Husband of Irene and friend from college on; missionary to Ecuador

● Irene Cathers: Wife of Bill; missionary to Ecuador

● Dayuma: Waorani woman who fled the tribe and lived among the Quechua; Wao language and culture source for Rachel Saint, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot

● Colleen Elliot: Wife of Herbert, Jim Elliot’s sister-in-law; missionary to Peru

● Earle Elliot: Jim Elliot’s uncle, lived in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and Jim Elliot lived at the Elliot house on 645 Duane during his first year at Wheaton

● Eileen Elliot: Jim Elliot’s aunt, lived in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and Jim Elliot lived at the Elliot house on 645 Duane during his first year at Wheaton

● Herbert Elliot: Brother of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth Elliot’s sister-in-law, husband to Colleen; missionary to Peru

● Robert Elliot: Brother of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth Elliot’s brother-in-law, husband to Ruby

● Ruby Elliot: Sister-in-law to Jim Elliot, wife of Robert Elliot

● William Elliot: Fred Elliot’s brother, Jim Elliot’s uncle

● Olive Fleming: Wife of Peter, missionary to Ecuador

● Peter Fleming: Husband to Olive, missionary to Ecuador, one of the five missionaries killed on January 8, 1956

● Florence Howard Frost: Usually referred to by Jim Elliot as “Auntie”, no relation but a friend of the Elliot family who lived with them in her later years, until her death in 1954

● Emma Guikema: Missionary to Ecuador, who worked out of the Shandia station

● Gerald Hawthorne: Husband to Jane, brother-in-law to Jim Elliot

● Jane (Elliot) Hawthorne: Jim Elliot’s sister, Gerald’s wife

● David Howard: Elisabeth Elliot’s brother, Jim Elliot’s brother-in-law and friend from college onward

● Katherine Howard: Elisabeth Elliot’s mother, Philip Howard’s wife

● Phyllis Howard: Jim Elliot’s sister-in-law, David Howard’s wife

● Philip Howard Jr.: Jane’s husband, Jim Elliot’ brother-in-law

● Ed McCully: Husband to Marilou, college classmate and friend to Jim Elliot, missionary to Ecuador, one of the five missionaries killed on January 8, 1956

● Marilou McCully: wife to Ed, missionary to Ecuador

● Marj Saint: wife to Nate, missionary to Ecuador

● Nate Saint: Husband to Marj, missionary pilot to Ecuador with Mission Aviation Fellowship, one of the five missionaries killed on January 8, 1956

● Rachel Saint: Sister to Nate, first missionary to work with Dayuma to learn the Wao language

● Marie Short: Missionary to Ecuador, wife of Dee Dee Short

● Roger Youderian: Husband to Barbara, missionary to Ecuador, one of the five missionaries killed on January 8, 1956

● Barbara Youderian: Wife of Roger, missionary to Ecuador

Collection 721 Papers of Fred and Clara Elliot
Bob Shuster
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US